Super Bowl Sunday Post: Football in YA

Football fans across the nation (and lots of commercial fans) are gearing up for the Super Bowl tonight. I’m not a huge football fan, but I do love snacking and watching great commercials 🙂 Since it’s a football-themed day, I figured it’s the perfect day to share some YA football titles that my students enjoy reading. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, so I’d love it if you could share more titles in the comments. Read-alikes are welcome as well since my students are always looking for more.

I have a family party to get ready for (I didn’t have enough forethought to write this post last night), so I’m simply including the title, author, cover image, and summary.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen (Goodreads):

A timely book about bullies, their victims, and a high school football team where winning is the only thing that matters

This intense sports novel will strike a chord with those who followed the tragic football stories that broke in 2011. In this heart-pounding debut, Joshua C. Cohen conveys the pressures and politics of being a high school athlete in a way that is both insightful and compelling. At Oregrove High, there’s an extraordinary price for victory, paid both on and off the football field, and it claims its victims without mercy. When the unthinkable happens, an unlikely friendship is at the heart of an increasingly violent, steroid-infused power struggle. This is a book that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher (Goodreads):

Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world.

How can a pint-sized, smart-ass eighteen-year-old do anythingsignificant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho?

First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act.

And then there’s Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she’s first on the list.

Living with a secret isn’t easy, though, and Ben’s resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn’t the only person in Trout with secrets.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads):

Mick Johnson is determined not to make the same mistakes his father, a failed football hero, made. But after being tackled just short of the end zone in a big game, Mick begins using “gym candy,” or steroids. His performances become record-breaking, but the side effects are terrible: Mick suffers ‘roid rage, depression, and body acne. Gym Candy’s subject matter is just as hard-hitting as its football scenes. You’ll find yourself unable to look away as Mick goes down a road that even he knows is the wrong one to travel.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker (Goodreads):

Through the eyes of a distinctly non-athletic protagonist—a fat high school journalist named Mitch—veteran sports novelist Deuker reveals the surprising truth behind a mysterious football player named Angel.  When Angel shows up Lincoln High, he seems to have no past—or at least not one he is willing to discuss.  Though Mitch gets a glimpse of Angel’s incredible talent off the field, Angel rarely allows himself to shine on the field.  Is he an undercover cop, wonders Mitch?  Or an ineligible player?  In pursuit of a killer story, Mitch decides to find out just who this player is and what he’s done.  In the end, the truth surprises everyone.

Stupid Fast trilogy by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads):

I, Felton Reinstein, am Stupid Fast. Seriously. The upper classmen used to call me Squirrel Nut, because I was little and jumpy. Then, during sophomore year, I got tall and huge and so fast the gym teachers in their tight shorts fell all over themselves. During summer, three things happened all at once. First, the pee-smelling jocks in my grade got me to work out for football, even though I had no intention of playing. Second, on my paper route the most beautiful girl I have ever seen moved in and played piano at 6 a.m. Third, my mom, who never drinks, had some wine, slept in her car, stopped weeding the garden, then took my TV and put it in her room and decided she wouldn’t get out of bed.

Listen, I have not had much success in my life. But suddenly I’m riding around in a jock’s pick-up truck? Suddenly I’m invited to go on walks with beautiful girls? So, it’s understandable that when my little brother stopped playing piano and began to dress like a pirate I didn’t pay much attention. That I didn’t want to deal with my mom coming apart.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (Goodreads):

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line?

**Update–I can’t believe I forgot this title!** Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads):

Star quarterback Bobby Framingham, one of the most talented high school football players in California, knows he’s different from his teammates. They’re like brothers, but they don’t know one essential thing: Bobby is gay. Can he still be one of the guys and be honest about who he is? When he’s outed against his will by a student reporter, Bobby must find a way to earn back his teammates’ trust and accept that his path to success might be more public, and more difficult, than he’d hoped. An affecting novel about identity that also delivers great sportswriting.

Dairy Queen
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.


  1. – mobile wouldn’t let me enter this in the website box.

    I teach 9th grade English and as a class we are reading Players by TM Taylor. We follow defense-player Hunt who plays the game and doesn’t get serious about life even as his girlfriend starts growing up. Great read, and lots of lessons learned!

  2. Leverage. Wow. I still can’t get that one out of my head. Many times if I’m reading a book and a student asks about it, I give them the book even though I haven’t finished. I figure I can always finish it later. But Leverage is one I made them wait for. It is now going through the hands of my boys. Geoff Herbach came and talked to my freshmen, so Stupid Fast and I’m With Stupid are very popular. Every Carl Deuker book I can find gets read. He even gets his own basket in my room.

    But now I have a couple more books to add to the room. Dairy Queen has been on my radar. Out of the Pocket and Catching Jordan I hadn’t really heard of, but they are on my list now!

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I know what you mean about Leverage. I still think about it.

      I’ve Skyped with Geoff, but I’m jealous that he came and spoke to your freshmen!

  3. My Grade 9 students really like COVER-UP by John Feinstein about a doping scandal at the Super Bowl. Feinstein is a sports writer and his novels follow a pair of teen sports writers who solve various mysteries at major sporting events. Unique, authentic look at the business of sports.

  4. Ryan Quinn’s The Fall is a very good, debut novel about college life for three friends (two guys and one girl — all freshmen) on a journey of self-discovery. One of three friends plays football.

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      Thanks for bringing The Fall to my attention. I like that it’s about college life and self-discovery. I’ll be looking this one up for sure.

I love comments!

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